A friend recently sent this to me and I found it quite beautiful, so I am now sharing it with you...
“Old friends” and “true friends” are not necessarily identical. Old friends have stood the test of time; true friends are timeless. True friends may have been in your life since your childhood or they may have shown up only yesterday, but it’s from the quality of the heart that you know them, not the number of years you’ve logged together.
Most friendships are situational, though we don’t like to admit it. They spring up in the ground of common interests and/or common circumstances. Within these enclaves, we may feel closer to some folks than to others. But as our circumstances change or our life’s journey takes us in separate directions, the common ground begins to fade, and maintaining the connection takes more and more energy — sometimes, just too much energy! That’s nothing to beat yourself up about: situational friendships aren’t “fake,” they’re just “not forever.”
Sometimes it’s not only okay but downright healthy to move on. While this can be painful, as all loss of intimacy is, it becomes psychologically corrosive only when you also have to fight your expectation that it shouldn’t be this way. Nobody has failed; it’s just life doing its thing.
Still, true friends do exist, miraculously hidden amongst all the situational flux. How do you recognize them? Usually they reveal themselves only after the situation itself has changed. And the results can be surprising: sometimes the people who remain in your life and the ones who fall out are not at all what you would have predicted! But these “friends forever,” however they play out in your particular life situation, always seem to share three characteristics: (1) They have a capacity to grow with you (and you with them) through life’s changing circumstances; 2) They are low-maintenance, rarely-to-never imposing themselves or laying expectations on you; and 3) contact with them, when it comes, is never a duty, but always a gift “heart to heart.” Such friends—always a rare and special breed — have an uncanny knack for being able to stay in tune with you emotionally over huge gaps of time and space. Maybe you don’t hear from them for three years — or thirty — but then the phone rings and there they are again, and it’s like picking up as if you never left off.
We can’t command the heart, of course. We can’t pre-screen our friends for potential “forever” status, or impose this expectation as a unilateral requirement. But paradoxically, perhaps, the best way to help all our friendships grow wisely and well is to take responsibility for our own aloneness.
No friendship can long survive under coercion and demand. If we seek friends because they “feed us,” or hide us from our loneliness or boredom or fear; if we expect them to “be there for us” because we don’t know how to be there for ourselves, then this kind of neediness is eventually going to translate into demand and duty, and on these rocks many friendships falter. The relationship becomes just too fraught with expectations, hidden agendas, and disappointments, and eventually the barrel runs dry. Whenever either party begins to feel, “This friendship is draining me,” it’s a pretty sure tip-off that an iceberg of hidden expectation is lurking beneath the surface — in which both parties, alas, are partially complicit. The more we can take responsibility for our own emotional well-being, the more we can live comfortably in our own skin, the more friendship can become what it is truly meant to be — whether for the whole of our life or just the miracle of the present: the spontaneous overflowing of our uniquely human capacity for intimacy, compassion, and joy."
By: Cynthia Bourgeault